24 Mar

Self Portrait Sunday (or what I’ve been working on this week)

I injured my elbow a couple of weeks ago. I suspect it may have had something to do with marathon knitting sessions with a cat sitting on my left arm while I was trying to knit my Butterfly Forest Shawl for the third time. I backed off on the knitting, the embroidery, and the gym. It became the perfect time to do some simple piecing with a fabric jelly roll I bought probably a year ago and planned to make into a charity quilt or something. So that’s Monday, Self Portrait 365:93.


I continued to work on the quilt on Tuesday, 365:094.


But at the end of the day, after a conversation with my man, I posted this on Facebook: “I just had an idea not in any way related to my recent art, nor any current needs, but is so crazy I’m pretty sure I need to drop everything and do it.” And so followed the rest of the week.

365:095. One of several sketches. The others were on the computer, working through my inspirations. This one kinda sums it up.

365:096. At least one Facebook friend suggested I sleep on my crazy idea and see if it still seemed plausible in the morning. It did, so in I dove, choosing fabrics and auditioning them on a make-shift design wall.

At this point, I knew I wasn’t going to be drawing portraits this week. I’ve been fully immersed in this new quilt. Here’s the trail of fabric on the floor as I worked things out. 365:097.

365:098. Glue-Baste-It and pins — some of my favorite tools.

…and piecing traditional half square triangles. It’s amazing how quick they go in comparison to yards of embroidery or a bajillion machine embroidered stars! 365:099

I’m being a bit coy about this new quilt because i’m not yet sure of it’s proper context. It has nothing to do with my usual houses and roots or Army Wife series. I actually think it would blow some minds at Quilt National, but I can’t keep it under wraps until 2015. This is au currant. I think I’ll show it when the top is done and maybe a plugged in reader or two will know of the perfect venue for it.

22 Mar

At the Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild

Recently, I joined the Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild. It’s a small group, mostly comprised of knitters, but with a fair amount of weavers, spinners, quilters, sewists, and general fiber enthusiasts. They invited me to share my work at the last meeting for the monthly program. I decided that since I was new here and no one really knew my work, I would present a sort of retrospective, charting my progression from traditional quilter to conceptual artist.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
My first quilt (though not the first finished). Inspired by a weekend in Amish Pennsylvania, designed from the eight pointed star sashing out, and hand quilted. Circa the mid nineteen-nineties.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
In sponge mode — learning and trying on various themes and techniques. Inspired by my daughter’s quirky drawings.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
From my first series, Impressions of Germany. Incorporating traditional blocks and techniques into somewhat pictorial quilts of landscapes and towns. Circa 2006.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
Still trying out various techniques and approaches.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
I still love a good bed quilt!

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
Moving on to houses and roots and starting to find my voice.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
Getting even more personal.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
But always willing to step outside my focus and try something else to see how it might feed back into my main body of work.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
At the point where the story tells me the medium rather than trying to fit specific definitions. The Army Wife is quilts, but it is also embraces embroidery, knitting, felting, and domestic textiles in general.

Charlottesville Fiber Arts Guild Presentation
I also don’t mind going back to traditional quilt forms — yet giving myself permission to mix it up and leave room for the viewer to discover the story inside.

I brought a lot more quilts, and brief notes to keep me on track. I was a bit nervous that I might drone on, but found that I could talk animatedly about my work and tie it all together quite nicely. I’m confident that the presentation went well.

Thank you Sharon for all the photos!

20 Mar

Works in Progress

It seems I’m swimming in works in progress. It’s not just the artwork either. I’ve got a bunch of half-baked projects around the house too — mostly to do with upgrading my computer’s operating system. That threw all my ancient programs out of whack and so now I’m trying to upgrade where I can, but my software is so old that replacement is more likely. I lost access to my catalog of quilts that has all their dates, sizes, locations, etc. (Luckily, after a week of trying, my tech support husband found a solution and at least that’s fixed!) I’m experimenting with online banking now too, and a new financial tool. I am not impressed. Not to mention that my blog reading system has all but disappeared and Hotmail is now Outlook.

Anyway, enough complaining.

Apron WIP

This is coming along. I’ve found that machine embroidering stars is kind of addictive. Once I add a star, I must keep going. It’s hard to stop. I’m not sure if this piece is developing how I want it to, but it’s pretty, so I will keep going.


Service Star WIP
This Service Star is killing me. I now have something that I think feels like Tennis Elbow must feel. I’ve had to take a break from embroidering on it to give my arm a rest, and it’s giving me a chance to take stock of this quilt. I started it when my husband first deployed to Iraq in early 2003.* I was still a pretty traditional quilter at the time. I pieced the top and started to hand quilt it, but then set it aside for a while. We moved and I joined a group of ladies that met every other Friday to have breakfast together and work on hand stitching projects. I came close to finishing the quilt and then moved again. By the time I unpacked it during hubby’s fourth Iraq deployment, I had moved on stylistically.

Service Star WIP (detail)
Having embarked on The Army Wife series I considered how I could bring this into the fold. Inspired by so much subversive stitch and gallery-worthy embroidery, I decided to add embroidered bumper sticker platitudes and a shadowy Uncle Sam.

Service Star WIP (detail)
It worked in my mind, but now, many, many, hours into it, I don’t feel like it’s coming together. I’m loathe to just throw the whole quilt away given the hours I have invested in it. But I feel like it should have just had the shadow figure and none of the distracting embroidered flags and sayings. However, I can’t really remove the embroidery because of all the guide lines below it.

As my elbow heals I am taking the time to contemplate cutting the whole thing up (perhaps into smaller pillows), continuing with the embroidery (adding more blending stitches, and maybe highlighting some facial details to make U.S. stand out); or stretching this on a large frame and painting over most of it (obscuring all but Sam, but probably also requiring more blending embroidery to keep the underlying texture even).

*Coincidentally, today/yesterday is the 10 year anniversary of the start of that war. Hubby and his troops had already been deployed for a few months at that point though — some of them, more than a few. War had been in the air.

18 Mar

Stars and Stripes

I keep meaning to post about work I’ve actually finished but then I get distracted and forget.


Right now this is entitled “Patriots,” though I’m not certain that will stick. It is layered sheers and machine embroidered stars. To me, it says something about connections and associations within the military community, but after making several variations, I’ve decided that I just want it to “be,” and not try to be too literal or leading. Overall I’d like to be less specific in my art. There will probably always be a narrative, but I don’t want it to be so obvious that there’s no room for the viewer to discover their own story within it.


Welcome Home is not quite finished. It is an apron, but also patriotic bunting. It’s made from used clothing. Eventually it will be hung on a section of chain link fence like the banners families and units hang up when their troops return home from deployment. It’s flirty and festive, and a little bit trashy, as anyone who has attended a Welcome Home ceremony knows.



17 Mar

Self Portrait Sunday

I did better with the portraits this week than last, but when this 12 month project is over, I definitely won’t have 365 portraits. Oh well — I suppose that’s part of the experiment too.

365:86 I was in the mood for some pen and ink, but didn’t want to jump right in. I drew a portrait in pencil first, and then traced it with my ink pen onto decorative rice paper and added some modeling with water.

365:87 started as the pencil sketch for number 86, but it was going pretty well so I finished it off and let it be it’s own portrait. It’s far sweeter than I see myself, but a nice respite to all the grumpy looking portraits. Luckily the traced ink portrait is not so saccharine looking.

365:88 I went to the dentist and they were very effusive about the lovely state of my teeth. Gold star for me! So I came home and drew a tooth with a gold star. BO-ring. But done.

365:89 I had to make up for the previous day’s boring tooth, so I drew a whimsical take on it. The star is much more important than the teeth.

And then life and procrastination set in. There are no 365:90, :91 or :92 portraits.

To make up for some of the lack of self portraits, here’s another view of my hand knit shawl. I’ve been wearing it a lot as a scarf and I love it.

Butterfly Forest Shawl

15 Mar

Down to Sleep Exhibit

Down to Sleep is an exhibit of textile art curated by Joetta Maue and currently on display at the Chester F. Sidell Gallery at the Essex Art Center in Lawrence, MA.

The bed is a powerful locale in our daily life – with most of us beginning and ending our day here. We experience our most intimate moments of vulnerability, love, passion, sadness, and weakness here.  Most of us begin and end our life in this place that is piled with soft sheets and pillows.  As a metaphor we can experience all the most significant emotions of human life in this one simple place of our daily life.  This exhibit is work that explores this liminal space with contemporary fiber practices.

It looks like a wonderful exhibit from the photos. The gallery, filled with pieces that literally reach off the walls and into the viewer’s space invite interaction and consideration. It’s like a textile wonderland waiting to be explored. I have one piece, The Other Woman, in the show. I had hoped to travel to Lawrence to see the show in person, but alas, it’s not in the cards.

I encourage anyone who IS within a reasonable distance to make the excursion. Or if you can’t make it there, maybe like me, you’ll want to purchase the catalog here.

Down to Sleep runs March 1 – April 12, 2013
Essex Art Center
56 Island Street
Lawrence, MA 01840
Open M-F 10-6, Closed Sat & Sun
10 Mar

Fine Craft at ACC Baltimore

I keep forgetting to blog about the trip Deborah and I made to Baltimore a few weeks ago to visit the American Craft Council show. Deborah has written two posts worth checking out here and here. In fact, she pretty much said everything in the first post that I wanted to say here. So, I’ll focus more on my personal take-aways (and then show lots of work I like anyways — some of which is the same as Deborah chose).

We gathered lots of business cards to help remember all the work we saw.

Overall, I was impressed with the consistency and quality of the work. I’m sure this is because one must be juried in to participate. I found myself, over and over, thinking “I am not worthy,” about my own work. I particularly enjoyed the booths where the artist had taken care to integrate a whole experience between the wares and their presentation. Speaking of wares, I overheard one person comment, somewhat disparagingly, that it was basically shopping. Yes, it was. This is no conceptual gallery show or museum setting. But, as artists and craftspeople, selling work is an effective way of sharing it with an audience as well as paying the bills, so I’m OK with that. That said, I came away from the show pretty sure that I do not want to do the craft fair circuit myself. It’s not that I think myself above that, it’s because I know it would mean drastically re-evaluating and changing my work to something more marketable, and I’m just not there right now or in the immediate future.

I really enjoyed the variety of work at the show. Like Deborah, I loved the wooden Jewelry of Gustav Reyes. It is a masterful blending of the technical with the organic, and we enjoyed learning about his technique. I would love to own one of his coil bracelets:

The jewelry ran the gamut from wooden, to felt, to ceramic, to assemblage, to precious metal, to stone (lots of stone!), to textile. I found myself attracted to a lot of the “creepy-cool” things, like Kest Schwartzman’s masks:

Brandon Holschuh had a wonderful booth filled with his organic metal and stone jewelry, each with their own little display stand so they were not only sculpture for the body, but sculptures in and of themselves as well. He was enthusiastic to talk to and his booth styling was classy and appropriate as well.

I saw lots of shibori, mostly amongst the clothing — but very little was traditional Japanese style, there was lots of variety and subtlety. While I admired the dyed fabrics, I ended up buying a patchwork dress from San Francisco designer, Anya. Mine is green and orange, of course.

If I had unlimited funds, I would have loved a repurposed cashmere dress from eko logic too (the style that enchanted me is unfortunately not on the website).

It wasn’t all about the wearables though. Glass and ceramic were prevalent. Bryan Hopkins was one of my favorites — mainly because of his clever tagline, “Functional and Dysfunctional Porcelain.” However, not all work was so contemporary looking. My mom would have liked the craftsman inspired ceramics and furniture like the vases of Jonathan White. There were some spikey ones that appealed to me with their slight dangerousness.

Michael Bauermeister‘s sculptural vessels had a warm presence despite their large scale. I’d love to have the space and the funds for one of his pieces.

We saw some enormous metal pieces too that would be great for an outdoor installation, but would never work for nomads like Deborah and I.

She mentioned in her second post that while the quilts and textiles at the show were high quality, and definitely beautiful, they just weren’t the things she gravitated to. I have to agree, and think she may be onto something with the idea of familiarity. However, I enjoyed Liz Alpert Fay’s rugs — some looked decidedly vintage quilt-like.

There were also a few floorcloths in Faith Wilson’s booth that definitely spoke to me. Something about “here” resonated.

There is something about practical things that we can use in our environments and on our bodies, that when made beautiful and intriguing as well as functional, which draws me in. I had a wonderful time at the Baltimore Convention Center soaking in all the fine craft and art. The experience was made all the better being there with a friend with whom I could share the wonder and appreciation and well as the questionable and humorous moments.

If you haven’t already, go check out Deborah’s posts. And, for another perspective, Lotta reported too.

10 Mar

Self Portrait Sunday

Not much to post this week. Self Portraits 365:080, 81, 82, and 83 never happened. I let myself get caught up in the discussion about the fine line between spec work and charitable donation, between respect for the artist and the realities of who actually does more work, which ultimately became a back and forth about who dissed who (though that makes it sound worse than I think it actually is). Anyway, that emotional quagmire (for me) has also been tempered by some movement on the gallery side at MacGuffey, a request to be included in some educational material, and a well received trunk show at the local Fiber Arts Guild. Perhaps my self portrait this week is the introspective time spent thinking about what my place in this field, or world is, and what I have to offer. I have no answers.

I did pull myself together to make two portraits.

365:084 is a portrait with the shawl I have essentially knit three times plus some (If you’re on Ravelry and want to know details, it’s here). I finally finished it and I think it looks great! There are flaws, but I finally got it to the point where I knew I could be happy with it and then apply my lessons learned to the next endeavor.

And, after the previous week’s cop-out photo portraits, I brought out the oil pastels and made an actual drawing. I tried smiling a little. It’s extremely hard to hold the same smile between looking at the mirror and then concentrating on the drawing — and to keep that up for 15 minutes. I know, wa wa, whine, whine, excuses.

Here’s to a more productive week ahead!